Audi R8 5.2 V10 Plus

Audi R8 V10 plus, nose
Audi R8 V10 plus, front
Audi R8 V10 plus, rear, action
Audi R8 V10 plus, rear
Audi R8 V10 plus, interior
Audi R8 V10 plus, instrument panel
Audi R8 V10 plus, virtual instrument panel
Audi R8 V10 plus, badge
Audi R8 V10 plus, engine

IT'S hard to believe that it's almost a decade since the exotic Audi R8 exploded on to the supercar scene.

The date was September 30 2006 and the place was the Paris Motor Show. It was the German auto giant's first foray into the highly charged world of hyper sports cars and it took other makers and the public by storm

Today, 10 years on, the rakish silhouette of the mid-engined two-seater, which is based on the Lamborghini Gallardo platform, still stops passersby in the their tracks and causes schoolboys and business types to pause and stare.

What's more, it is one of Britain's most popular uber sports cars, notching up no fewer than 3,100 sales here since 2007.

The model was replaced last year with the 5.2-litre V10 which raises the power stakes to 533bhp, and an awesome 602bhp for the V10 Plus. Despite the hike in performance the Audi remains one of the most rounded performers with a sweet docility that can be exchanged in a trice for ferocious urge at the stab of an accelerator pedal.

It was the latter version that I drove. Even at the end of my tenancy, I hadn't fully adjusted to the sheer depth of the blistering acceleration via the twin clutch, seven-speed automatic gearbox.

Put in stark statistical terms, it surges to 62mph in a mere 3.2 seconds and will top the magic 200mph mark if you can afford to hire a race circuit ... and have sufficient bottle. It's actually a fraction of a second faster to 100mph than arch rival, the Porsche 911 Turbo S...and that's going some.

Not everyone will like the look of the new fixed black rear spoiler, which rather interrupts the flow of the graceful lines, but it does ensure the R8 stays firmly planted on the ground towards maximum speed.

The explosive power is accompanied by a deep V10 snarl which becomes still more window-shattering if you activate a little button on the steering wheel which is identified by a logo of twin exhausts.

With one of the world's fastest changing automatic gearboxes, progress is relentlessly fast, yet seamlessly smooth with few undue demands on the driver, other than considerable concentration and an awareness of the car's immense speed.

Traction is tenacious and at no point did I approach the limit of the R8's adhesion. Quattro four wheel drive, wide 20-inch wheels and adjustable dampers provide huge cornering reserves alongside a fluid ride that seems almost too cosseting for a mega-sports car.

There's virtually no roll, yet even semi-corrugated road surfaces are smoothed out to give driver and passenger a pleasant passage.

Steering is highly geared and precise with much more road feel than other Audis - good job, too, because with a price tag of more than £130,000 the V10 Plus is up against stiff competition from McLaren, Ferrari and Porsche.

The only grouse as far as driving is concerned regards sideways visibility, particularly when joining motorways or dual carriageways from a slip road. The thick rear pillars and low seating position conspire to make the manoeuvre somewhat tricky.

Economy, probably not the key fact in selecting a car of this type, is surprisingly reasonable considering the immense power. My average hovered around the 19mpg- 20mpg mark during the 600-mile test.

Don't expect many changes of clothes with you if you go touring in the R8 - the front boot, which is reasonably deep, carries less than half the average hatchback. Space for oddments in the cabin is a bit limited too, although there's room behind the two seats for a slim briefcase or a coat.

FAST FACTS

Audi R8 5.2 V10 Plus

Price: £133,400

Mechanical: 602bhp, 5.2litre, V10 petrol engine driving 4-wheels via 7-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 202mph

0-62mph: 3.2sec

Combined MPG: 22.7

Insurance Group: 50

C02 emissions: 289g/km

Bik rating: 37%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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